One of America's leading authorities on technology and telecom policy, Motley is a writer, television and radio commentator, political and policy strategist, lecturer, debater, activist, and policy advisor to The Heartland Institute.
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Raise your hand if you think government at any level – federal, state, local – is suffering from a dearth of our money. Or omni-directional ways to take it from us. I don’t see…any arms extended upward. Strange.
Well, not really. It now seems like every year the Feds set a new record for most money ever taken from us. As they have yet again this year. Likewise, down-ballot governments are fleecing as fast, as much and in as many ways as they possibly can.
And when government demands more money, the unspoken assumption is that every penny they already take is being spent wisely and well. Not one cent at all wasted – ever. Who are they kidding? How about you cut those hundreds of billions of absurdly-spent dollars – before you start looking for even more of our coin?
Congress is currently considering – to continue funding the government – an Omnibus bill. (Let’s ignore the fact that we have gone yet another year without a proper budget and budget process – and press on.) Currently contained therein is the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (PITFA).
Which will now and forever prohibit governments at all levels from taxing us – for having the audacity to hire an Internet Service Provider (ISP). These taxes are called Internet access taxes. Meaning governments would – each and every month – take money from us for being online.
Which is bizarre. Because when they aren’t seeking to tax us for going online, they are endlessly fretting that more people aren’t going online – because of the price. “Democrats’ Bill Would Subsidize Internet Service.”
Get that? They want to tax Internet service – which raises the price of Internet service. And then tax us to spend money to subsidize Internet service – because they just increased the price with their taxes. Behold the circular firing squad.
Except – the government already taxes the daylight out of us to subsidize Internet service. Behold the Lifeline program. The same absurd slush fund that uber-wastefully provides ObamaPhones – also provides Internet access.
That tax – to fund this nightmare mess – is called the Universal Service Fund (USF). Check your phone bills – you’ve been paying it for decades. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) can unilaterally increase that tax rate…whenever it wishes. As it just did. In January, the USF tax will be over 18%. After the FCC increased it to 17% for this year. After the FCC increased it to 16% for 2014. The Shampoo Principle: Lather, rinse, repeat….
All of which means locking down a permanent ban on the multi-government Internet access tax is a very good idea. God bless the members of Congress who are trying to do so.
Most Democrats, of course, want to bleed us from this new vein. And there are some Republicans who (along with Democrats, natch) want to bleed us from a whole other new vein – a fifty-state, 1,0000-tax-jurisdiction, criss-crossing, up-and-down-ballot-governments Internet sales tax. The woefully misnamed Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA).
“Under the MFA, uber-tax-happy states like California would no longer be confined to taxing into oblivion just Californians. They’d have access to the wallets of every business – every person – in all fifty states. Turning Huge Government states into additional Huge Government federals. And tempting Less-Huge-Government states to grow – with the siren song of new coin taken from people in forty-nine states that can’t vote against them.”
These MFA sales-tax-creators have long been holding hostage PITFA – to trade it to get MFA’s new blood flowing from us into government coffers. But new taxes are – as always – terrible, anti-capitalism policy. And governments absolutely do not need yet another new revenue stream – of any sort.
So here’s to Congress keeping PITFA alive – and in the Omnibus, MFA-free. And to PITFA ultimately – in very short order – becoming the law of the land.